The Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination (SLUMS) was designed as an alternative screening test to the widely used Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). The idea was that the MMSE is not great at diagnosing people with very early Alzheimer's symptoms. Sometimes referred to as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or Mild Neurocognitive Disorder (MNCD), these occur as people progress from normal aging to early Alzheimer's. As with any Alzheimer's test, the SLUMS is a screening test and does not substitute for a full diagnostic work-up for Alzheimer's disease.
Scoring of the SLUMS
The SLUMS consists of 11 items, and measures aspects of cognition that include orientation, short-term memory, calculations, naming of animals, clock drawing, and recognition of geometric figures. Scores range from 0 to 30, with scores of 27-30 considered normal in a person with a high school education. Scores between 21 and 26 suggest Mild Neurocognitive Disorder, and scores between 0 and 20 indicate dementia.
Usefulness of the SLUMS
Saint Louis University researchers used both the SLUMS and the MMSE to test 705 men who were at least 60 years old and treated at the Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center, Veterans Administration Hospitals in St. Louis in 2003. They found that while both tools detected dementia, only the SLUMS recognized a group of patients as having mild cognitive problems. It takes about seven minutes to administer the SLUMS.
Overall Advantages and Disadvantages of the SLUMS
The advantages of the SLUMS include its superiority to the MMSE in identifying people with more mild cognitive problems that don't yet rise to the level of dementia. In addition, it is free to use and takes only about seven minutes to administer. Disadvantages include the fact that it is not as widely used as the MMSE, and there have not been further studies published on it beyond the initial study of 705 veterans.
Tariq SH, Tumosa N, Chibnall JT, et al. Comparison of the Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination and the Mini-Mental State Examination for detecting dementia and mild neurocognitive disorder: a pilot study. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2006;14:900-910.